Peace Time: November 23, 2003


  Virtual training is a great way for navies to train their forces without the cost of actually putting to sea or expending live ordinance, and a display at the recent International Maritime Defense Exhibition Asia 2003 in Singapore has taken things a step further.

Visitors to the Exhibition were treated to a virtual naval battle involving a joint US Navy (USN) and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) task group. This simulation involved the command team of the visiting American frigate, the USS Rodney M Davies, utilizing a simulated combat room in the exhibition hall. The frigate team was joined by three other warships, an American destroyer and two Singapore navy missile corvettes. The novelty of the exhibit was that of the three other ships, one corvette, the RSS Vigour, was moored at its dock, the other, the RSS Victory, was at sea and the command team of the destroyer USS John S McCain was actually running a Command Post exercise in Virginia, USA. The exercise was run in real time, and included live video feeds of crew and computer generated images, which were transmitted via an integrated digital service network, with a radio frequency link to the corvette at sea. This system was developed by Singapore and American firms and had to integrate American and Singaporean software and hardware.

The implications of this exhibit are interesting, as it not only involved the use of ship command simulators, but also actual warship combat information centers as well. Traditional bilateral or multilateral naval exercises are sometimes difficult to organize, as they involve ships having to travel from home waters to the exercise area. For the USN, with its worldwide deployment and logistic support, this isn't very difficult, but navies with smaller capabilities are often apprehensive over traveling vast distances to participate in naval exercises. For example, British and French warships are rarely seen in the Asia Pacific region. Such a system would give navies across the world a relatively low cost method of experiencing joint training without having to sail thousands of miles. Additionally, by integrating existing simulation training systems, cost is kept low, and participants don't have to learn a new training system. The United States Navy first developed this concept in the 1980s, but the electronics have become a lot cheaper now, as has satellite communications. -- Shawn Chung


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